W for Witch

File photo of Sonepur mela of Bihar, where the woman was termed a witch and the 'ojha' (witch doctor) was trying to remove the curse. Picture Credits : Times Of India

File photo of Sonepur mela of Bihar, where this woman was termed a witch and the ‘ojha’ (witch doctor) was trying to remove the curse. Picture Credits : Times Of India

As I am penning this post, I seem to have an allergy and I cannot stop sneezing. This the second bout of cold in 3 weeks and this could be due to the changing weather. Well, imagine if someone close to my family had come to believe that may be my excessive sneezes are the shadow of something evil that has got within me. Then, out of love, my loved ones take me to a Tantrik who blows dry pepper and chillies and I sneeze even more and then comes the reply – “I was right! There was an evil spirit and see it is reacting with my prayers.”

My example was a simple one. Imagine the plight of a woman who for not fault of hers is assumed to be bringing misfortune to a family or be the reason for another family member’s death or the failing crops as soon as she was married into another family and a drought came upon. She is then called upon a witch and believed to be practicing witchcraft. That doesn’t stop ; she is ill-treated, beaten, kicked and in extreme cases murdered over that belief.  Many women have been killed till date because a majority within her society believed that they were responsible in many ways unnatural as prevalent around.

Not just in India but many other countries admit killings due to the belief in witchcraft. Uneducation, superstition, and faiths placed in the wrong place lead to such crimes and women and children are usually the victims. In tribal areas, there are women who claim to be witch doctors and are consulted for treatments like common cold, allergies, disability, infertility, desire to get married, and many others. These witch doctors have a team of their own and they even kill people (both men and women) who they assume to be a rival.

While Indian lawmakers are beginning to address such crimes, the reported cases are far fewer leading to a state where this has taken the shape of a crime which has no legal ramifications. Not for profit organisations are also playing a sensible part by spreading awareness, using street plays as a medium to talk about such practices in far-fetched areas but a lot needs to be done. In 21st century, where we use smart phones to looks up various alternate therapies for an ailment like common cold, blowing pepper and red chilly still exists.


I am blogging from A to Z during April (#404 on the list) and the theme I have chosen is set on women. Some of the posts will be here for you to know and some will be to reflect and accept. Share your thoughts and let me know how things are going. There is always a room for improvement.

24 Responses

  1. Shilpa Garg says:

    It is truly weird and sad that people follow such regressive and terrible beliefs and rituals!! Shocking!!

  2. It is prevalent even in educated people. They might not label someone as a witch, but the term is replaced with unlucky. Mental or verbal torture can be as bad as physical one. Sometimes, I feel these things are not just a result of superstitions. They are deep rooted in our psyche. Most often, when someone doesn’t like someone, or is jealous, they are ready to agree the other is indeed unlucky.

    • True that Kiran..It just takes another name but the thoughts remain the same. I agree that mental torture in the other section is so bad that women end up feeling depressed in extreme circumstances. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I appreciate it..

  3. Alex Hurst says:

    That’s really sad, and unfortunate that there is no suggestion that a man suddenly changing could also be the cause, if it’s religious. But, it’s interesting that there are female witch doctors in India. I’d always assumed that was a male-only profession, ie, shamans.

  4. I had only heard of the Salem witch trials but this is horrifying :O

  5. I thought the witch hunts were over! I am sorry that that is not the case: how sad AND horrific to suffer such atrocities. Good thing I do not live in India ’cause I KNOW I was a witch in a previous lifetime and still think I am, but a good one! 😉 <3 I have never been one for superstitions as I think they are stupid and evil, rather the cause or root of evil such as this.

    • Elly – Not the whole of India suffers from such superstitions but I do get your point 🙂 I agree that they are stupid..

      • A writer from the East says:

        Have we ever noticed that this word “witch” in almost almost all global languages is feminine?
        So there is a strong evidence of cultural disparity and damned patriarchy for this inhumane issue adversely affecting women? And more ironically witches are presumed to be ONLY WOMEN ONLY – as a excuse to for violence against women on basis of gender.
        Yes, this is a global issue, the history is full of how democratic and civilized France/Europe and Americans burned women on the stake through Christianity’s religious propaganda, frankly every religion abuses women in the name of whatever God and by inventions made in the name of that God.
        Time to join the 21 century!!!

  6. It’s interesting how it’s always women who are bad luck. When there are households where bad things happen, men are part of that household too. Yet, they are never blamed.

  7. Rajlakshmi says:

    I remember reading about witch burning in history books. It had given me sleepless nights to even think that people could commit such an act. I was little then, and now I realise how dangerous people can be without education. Loved your insightful post.

  8. Suzy says:

    That’s real sad but a reality for many. Superstition has been the cause of many injustices. I’m not sure if even education can solve this problem as superstition is so deep routed in many cultures and societies.

    • May be education can open up the mind and help people think differently. But I agree. Sometimes social and cultural thoughts are imbibed so deep that it’s hard to uproot them..

  9. Sulekha says:

    In this day and age people still believe in magic potions for conceiving a child, they go to gurus and tantrik , also for black magic. Superstition has its roots deeply embedded in our society.

  10. Well written! You really raise an important issue… These type of superstitious behaviour is always supposed to be in rural area but sorry to say that uraban areas are also affected by it where literacy rate is high…. It start with rumour and suddenly it take the position if belief …….yesterday, a rumour came ” ulta chand” and people start practicing their orthodox belief to counter this ………….people have to make aware of such type of curse …

  11. shanayatales says:

    Oh yes. This is very prevalent in urban areas too. The consequences are not as drastic, but a lot of damage is done to the woman’s psyche. A close friend of mine had to go through a lot of emotional trauma when she was held responsible for her mother-in-law’s death, as the MIL passed away in 3 months of my friend getting married in the family. Sad and regressive, but very much a reality of our times.
    *Shantala @ ShanayaTales*

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